Wisconsin DOT Secretary Orders Bypass Built to Reopen Highway

Sun June 29, 2008 - Midwest Edition

MILWAUKEE (AP) A state contractor began construction June 17 on a bypass to get westbound Interstate 94 reopened, Transportation Secretary Frank Busalaachi said.

An emergency contract calls for the company to build a crossover lane in the Johnson Creek area that will allow one lane of traffic going east and one lane going west.

Busalaachi said he gave the OK to hire the company late June 16.

“I just told them to do it,” Busalaachi told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Work crews began preparing the area June 17 for grading and paving, and Busalaachi said he hoped construction would be done by the end of the week.

“As soon as it is done, we will open it,” he said.

Busalaachi made the announcement after authorities said the interstate could be closed for weeks.

Transportation officials ordered westbound lanes of the interstate closed after the Crawfish and Rock rivers rose. The closure affects an area at the Crawfish River just west of Johnson Creek.

Drivers have been forced to go south to Beloit to pick up Interstate 39/90 to go north to Madison.

The closure and detour have hurt interstate commerce, Busalaachi said: “That’s why this is so important.”

After the rivers recede, the bridges will need to be inspected before the interstate fully reopens, said Sharon Schmeling, chairwoman of the Jefferson County Board. That means the highway — or portions of it — could be closed through the end of June.

“This is not a Hollywood movie, where everything is back to normal in three or four days,” Schmeling said.

“This is a huge recovery effort beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.”

The Crawfish River has been the main problem, but the Rock is flowing at a high level as well, Busalaachi said.